Elite Eight Roundtable

For the third straight season the Gators find themselves as one of the last eight teams in the country still standing. The Gators will take on the Wolverines of Michigan and some of the GatorCountry staff sat down for a roundtable to discuss the matchup.


How does Florida match up against Michigan? How does Michigan match up against Florida?

AS) I think both teams really match up well against each other. When you think of Michigan, you think of Burke and the guard play. When you think of Florida, you also think of guard play. Both teams have a big man who can score inside in Patric Young and Mitch McGary. The key will be who is hitting their shots on the perimeter and who is getting to the free throw line.

AG) I think Kansas would have been a more favorable draw for the Gators, but Florida matches up well with Michigan. The Gators have the size inside to contend with the Wolverines’ bigs. Guard play will be critical, but lucky for Michigan, they have arguably the best guard in the country.

SP)  First off, I think the Gators match up with Michigan better then they would have with the length of Kansas. The two teams are built very similar and prevent different challenges for one another. Sunday should provide a terrific matchup of one of the best offenses in the country in Michigan versus a dominant defense in Florida. It truly is the unstoppable force versus the immovable object. Michigan has an advantage over Florida in their length in the backcourt, where players like Glen Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. should be able to get some shots off over the smaller Florida guards. Florida on the other hand, has much better depth then the Wolverines and could benefit in a big way by forcing some transition points and wearing down the Michigan players.

ND) I agree with Seth here. I think the Gators match up better against Michigan. However, Michigan matches up very well against Florida. The tournament rewards teams who have the best guard play – so it’s no wonder these two teams are meeting in the Elite Eight. The key for the Gators will be limiting what Mitch McGary does. He has really come on towards the end of the season and in the tournament. He’s been almost good for 20 points and 10 boards every time he steps on the court. And I would be remiss to not mention Trey Burke. Burke may be the most talented point guard in the country and the freshman showed you just why against Kansas. It will be a tall task for Wilbekin and the Gators but slowing Burke down will be vital if the Gators want to advance. This is will be an exciting game with great matchups all over the floor.

How do you stop Trey Burke?

AS) I’m not sure you can stop Burke all the way, I think you have to try and neutralize him somewhat. But this one is obvious, Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin has been Florida’s best on ball defender all year and is one of the best in the country, so he will draw the assignment of guarding Burke. While Burke has seen some great defenders this year, I don’t think he has seen one who is as tough as Wilbekin.

AG) Scottie Wilbekin has become a fan favorite this season due to his ability to defend opponents’ best scorers, but he will have what is undoubtedly his toughest challenge of the season on Sunday. Ideally, you would like to bring an extra defender up to neutralize Burke, but the last thing Florida wants is Tim Hardaway Jr or Mitch McGary left open for an easy bucket. The best thing Florida can do is throwing Wilbekin on him and pray things go well.

SP) There may not be one single way to stop the Big Ten player of the year. Burke is an explosive guard who has the capability of going off at any point in the game. The sophomore was held scoreless in the first half Friday, before going off for 23 points in their come from behind win over Kansas. Florida is playing some of the best team defense I’ve ever seen currently and it will be a team effort to stop Burke on Sunday. Wilbekin and Boynton will need to be sure to be on Burke’s hip every time he comes off of a screen. If he is able to penetrate, it will be important for the Florida bigs to get in Burke’s way while not allowing McGary to get anything easy under the hoop.

ND) There’s no easy answer here. Like Seth explained, Burke can go from being as cold as you can get, to ending up the hero of a game in the blink of an eye. He’s a special player who forgets about his bad shots, gets his teammates involved until he finds his shot and then he’s lights out either shooting or driving to the hoop. Wilbekin will be in for his biggest test of the season – and this is a guy who has guarded Marshall Henderson twice this year. He will need good help of ball screens from his bigs and also solid cover defense from his other guards but if anyone is ready for the challenge, it’s Wilbekin.

Can Patric Young neutralize Mitch McGary?

AS) The one thing with Young is I feel like he shows up against other top big men. McGary is a physical player and will force Young to work hard inside but in the end, I think Young can hold his own down there. The key will be which one gets in foul trouble the quickest.

AG) Can he? Yes. Will he stay out of foul trouble doing so is the biggest question. Florida can’t ill-afford foul trouble from its bigs on Sunday. If Young can play controlled ball on Sunday, he should be fine against the freshman McGary.

SP) I’ve watched McGary a couple times this year and noticed he is a force on offense both scoring and rebounding but often gets out of place and lost on the defensive end. Having Yeguete on defense this postseason has been huge for the Gators so far. A combination of Young, Yeguete, and possibly Murphy should be effective at slowing down the Michigan big man.

ND) McGary doesn’t know any other speed than full speed. Michigan’s big-man is usually the first player back on defense after baskets and is always sprinting. If he turns pro, he might be a match made in heaven with Energizer batteries to become their spokesperson. I have watched a lot of Michigan this year and watched McGary go from just a high-energy player coming off the bench, to the starting big man and a real difference maker at both ends of the floor. Young will need help from Yeguette and Murphy because he doesn’t have the motor to keep up with McGary all over the floor and not get into foul trouble.  We sound like a broken record but whoever can stay out of foul trouble will take the advantage in this matchup.

Pick one player that the Gators need to step up.

AS) Scottie Wilbekin, the Gators need his defense against Burke plus he has been doing well on the offensive end so far this tournament. Wilbekin’s ability to get to the basket helps open the perimeter up, as well as getting him to the line.

AG) Wilbekin. Period.

SP) It’s tough for me to pick one player because I think this Gator’s team strives off of a strong team effort. I think it will be most important in this game for Scottie Wilbekin to at least slow down Burke and force other Michigan players to make plays.

ND) Sorry guys, the record is still broken, its Wilbekin.

Prediction Time. With a trip to Atlanta at stake will Florida get over the elite eight hurdle they have stumbled on the past two seasons? Or will Michigan send its’ first team to a final four since the Fab Five were on campus?

AS) I really like Florida in this game because I feel like the Gators are playing good defense and the leadership of the seniors will finally get Florida to the final four. The one thing Florida can’t do is start slow again.

AG) I hate to be the negative one again, but I don’t think Florida pulls it off. The game will certainly go down to the wire, but Michigan appears to be the more complete team. Naturally though, I’ll probably be wrong.

SP) I finally believe in this Florida team. Florida has a big experience advantage in this game and has talked non-stop about how hard they’ve worked to get back to this situation. I expect Florida to come out and play inspired basketball behind a dominant defensive effort. It will be vital for the Gators to play a full forty minutes of hard-nosed basketball if they hope to get back to Final Four.

ND) We talk about the Gators defense, and rightfully so, but don’t sleep on Michigan’s defense. This is going to be a low-scoring game that ends up resembling a MAC football final score. (Yes, I somehow worked MACTion into an elite eight article.) In the end, I give the nod to Florida. Teams that have paid their dues tend to be rewarded in the end. Florida has back-to-back Elite Eight losses and those experiences will fuel the Gators Sunday.

How’s your bracket doing?

AS) My bracket is well crap. I went with the powerhouses this year and it bit me in the butt.

AG) My bracket is on life support. The picks that irk me the most or the ones you spend an inordinate amount of time going back and forth on only to have the team you selected flop (cough, New Mexico, cough, UNLV). Luckily, I’m one of the few people in the country to have exercised faith in Duke. If they win the tournament, I’ll be the winner in several of my pools. Took a few risks this year, and I learned some important lessons: NEVER TRUST PITT or GEORGETOWN. EVER.

SP) It’s been a rough life mainly due to misplaced faith in the Mountain West teams, mainly New Mexico.

ND) I’m on the front page of the GC Bracket Challenge, but it’s nothing to write home about. My final four of Louisville, Wisconsin, Kansas and Indiana blew up in my face, except for my National Champion, Louisville.  Other than my Midwest bracket, where I picked two games wrong, every other bracket has far more red than green.